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Eurogroup delayed as Cyprus fights EU, IMF demands

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Negotiations among Eurogroup finance ministers on Cyprus were put back by two hours Sunday as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades dragged out talks with key leaders about a bailout in a fight to protect his island, a eurozone source said.

The eurozone meeting is now slated to begin at 1900 GMT because of "ongoing" discussions with European Central Bank head Mario Draghi, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, European Union heads Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso plus Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem and EU Euro Commissioner Olli Rehn.

As difficult talks continued, Anastasiades said on Twitter that "we will do our utmost for Cyprus."

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on his arrival before the delay was announced that he "hoped" to broker a deal overnight, but warned: "That requires the Cypriots to take a more or less realistic view of the situation."

Around the same time, the Cyprus New Agency announced that cash machine withdrawal limits were being slashed as low as 100 euros per day at both of the countries' biggest banks. These are the banks that EU and IMF partners wanted broken up as they demand a contribution from their biggest depositors -- including Russian oligarchs.

Otherwise, a promised 10 billion euros of taxpayer loans would not be forthcoming and Cyprus would default and find itself ousted from the single currency area.

"We're ready," Schaeuble said of the anticipated public share in the financial rescue, adding that "if at all possible, we'd like not to spend every Sunday here."

But he underlined: "It's not about us -- the decision lies in Cyprus."

A Cypriot government spokesman earlier said that Anastasiades would break from the talks to consult with party leaders back home via videoconference.

As queues grew at ATMs on the island, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said everyone had to play their part if the crisis was to be resolved at the marathon Brussels session.

"We are here to find a solution that keeps Cyprus in the eurozone," Moscovici said on his arrival.

This requires "a cleaned-up banking system" on the island, with a "collective effort" which sees a "just" contribution especially from the biggest investors.

These ministers and Luxembourg's Luc Frieden each said the overall numbers had not changed from a week ago, when a plan to raid all savings collapsed amid public anger.

With Cyprus looking for a 17-billion euro rescue overall back to last June, that leaves a rough total of seven billion to be found from non-eurozone or IMF sources, via a bank "haircut," privatisations and other avenues.

may-rt/boc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130324/eurogroup-delayed-cyprus-fights-eu-imf-demands